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­­PhD Position in Sociology:


PhD Position in Sociology:
Researching the sociological and historical processes of African students at Trinity College Dublin

Post specification

Post Title:

PhD Position in Sociology

Post Status:

48 months, Full-time

Starting Date:

September 2021


Department of Sociology, School of Social Sciences and Philosophy

Reports to:

Dr. Philomena Mullen


Trinity College Dublin (Dublin, Ireland)


€20,000 net payment per annum

Closing Date:

1pm (Irish time) Friday 30th July 2021

Post Summary

The Department of Sociology at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) is seeking to appoint an outstanding and highly motivated PhD candidate with excellent qualifications and strong potential to undertake innovative archival and sociological research on the historical presence of African students at Trinity College Dublin. To date, no research has been carried out to recover the narratives of generations of Africans pre-1990s who studied at Trinity College Dublin.

The reputation of Trinity College for delivering world-class education and research has long attracted overseas students. In the 1960s, the Irish government provided scholarships to students from newly independent African states. Many enrolled in Trinity College Dublin studying subjects like medicine, law, engineering and government administration. By 1962, at least 1,100 students, or one tenth of Ireland’s student population nationwide were African, from countries like Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. Irish religious institutions were often central to student recruitment.

These student narratives, and possibly those of even earlier cohorts, have been lost and their contribution overlooked in the annals of College history. Yet large numbers of African students have passed through Trinity’s doors and been part of its intellectual standing and international reputation, as well as being important forces in the public and professional lives of their home nations. It is worth noting that research has begun in other academic jurisdictions to unearth the records of the African students that came to study within their respective academic institutions as part of Britain’s greater global project, as well as being part of a wider examination of the political, academic and cultural achievement of Africans within European institutions since the 19th century.

The aim of this research is to conduct a deep dive of the College records, using an archival analysis, to first document and then understand sociologically, the impact of African students on Trinity College, Irish society and the wider world. Primary archival research will be undertaken across the archives of Trinity College Dublin, College undergraduate newspapers and periodicals, alumni records and disciplinary journals (for example, Medical and STEM).

This research proposes to deliver an interpretive understanding of the sociological and historical processes that were in operation that motivated and supported African students to travel to Ireland to pursue their education in Trinity College. This study will be motivated by research questions such as: 1) Who were the Africans who came to Trinity (gender/class/religion/educational background, etc.)? Which countries did they come from? How did they choose Trinity as their place of study? What courses did they pursue for their degree? (2) What was their experience of studying in Trinity and living in Ireland? What adaptive processes did they undergo? What was their experience of racism? (3) What associations were established by the African students while in TCD/Ireland? (4) Did female students experience the ‘double jeopardy’ of race and gender? (5) What visual images are available that might engender an exhibition of this past? (6) What is the legacy and lasting impact of African students on College and Irish society? 7) What was the impact of their College education on their subsequent lives?

This research aligns with other initiatives in College such as the introduction of a Black Studies elective. Within an increasingly multicultural Ireland, the recuperation of these African student narratives will be of great significance to the young minority African-Irish student community who come to study at Trinity, as well as to the wider staff and student bodies. At the international level, the successful dissemination of this research (through publication, conference, College webpages, and exhibition) will enhance the multicultural appeal of College as a progressive and inclusive institution. Finally, this research addresses under-researched experiences of studying at Trinity College and within wider Irish society. It has the potential to have a significant impact on discourses of race, multiculturalism, migration and citizenship in 21st century Ireland, as well as providing historical insight into Trinity’s role within the British colonial machine.

The successful PhD applicant will gain expertise in the most critical skills and training required to write a strong PhD dissertation. Also, the successful candidate will be expected to contribute to the undergraduate teaching within the Department of Sociology at TCD.

Informal enquiries from interested applicants, referees or organisations are more than welcome and can be made directly to Dr Phil Mullen (Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, TCD; and Prof. Richard Layte (Head of Department of Sociology, TCD;
Candidate Specification


  • MA, MSc or MPhil in Sociology, Social Research, or cognate social science.
  • Evidence of solid training in Research Designand Advanced Methods in Social Sciences.

Expected Skills

  • An analytical, independent and systematic approach in social science research.
  • Ability to adopt an interdisciplinary approach in the social sciences.
  • High level understanding of research methodology and data analysis.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills in English.
  • Experience in management and analysis of qualitative data.
  • Good organisational skills and ability to engage in teamwork.
  • Good interpersonal and relational skills.

Desirable Skills

  • Experience in research using large archival data, or Archives and Records Management to explore sociological issues.

Output Expected

  • Writing an excellent PhD dissertation in Sociology.
  • Development of a database of African students within the historical record of Trinity College Dublin.
  • Submission of articles to competitive international scientific journals.
  • Gaining solid theoretical and methodological training in archival and sociological research to high international standards.
  • Contribution to the intellectual and academic community of TCD by actively engaging in seminars and training courses at the Sociology Department.
  • Four hours of tutorial facilitation per week in term (22 weeks per year) for the Department of Sociology.

The Department of Sociology

Sociology is a member of the School of Social Sciences and Philosophy, one of 24 Schools within Trinity College, and houses the newly-developed Black Studies elective for undergraduates. The Department’s principal research clusters are: ‘Inequalities, Education and Families’; ‘Migration, Integration and Diversity’; ‘Social Networks and Digitalisation’; ‘Power, conflict and resistance’. Combining advanced quantitative and qualitative methodologies applied to real-world data, our research is internationally recognised by leading several priority research themes and centres: 'International Integration' centred within Trinity Research in Social Science (TRISS); 'Identities in Transformation', within the Trinity Long Room Hub (TLRH); ‘Trinity Research in Childhood Centre’ (TRiCC); 'Inclusive Society'. The Department has a long-standing collaboration with one of Ireland’s premier research institutes in socio-economic analysis, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). Members of the Department have successfully obtained NORFACE or Horizon 2020 funding, including other leading funding schemes.

The Department has an active postgraduate programme. It is home to an MSc in ‘Comparative Social Change’, delivered jointly with University College Dublin, as well as an MPhil in ‘Race, Ethnicity, Conflict.’ It has a structured PhD programme combining advanced methodological training with transferable skills workshops. Sociology doctoral graduates obtain relevant positions in academic institutions, non-governmental organisations and the private sector.

Further information on the Department of Sociology is available at:


Application Procedure

The deadline to submit applications is the 1pm (Irish time) Friday 30th July 2021.

Interviews planned: shortlisted applicants will be contacted very soon after the application; Interviews are expected between the 2nd and 6th of August 2021.

Candidates should submit the following documentation via email no later than July 30th 2021 at 1pm to Dr Phil Mullen ( and cc Prof. Richard Layte ( in the same email, indicating “PhD Position in Sociology: sociological and historical processes of African students” in the subject line:

  • A letter of motivation clearly indicating how the applicant’s profile and skills fit the requirements of this PhD position (max. 2 pages);
  • A full curriculum vitae;
  • Names, affiliation, and contact details of 2 or 3 referees (with their email addresses included);
  • One example (at least) of a written piece in English, showing the analytical, writing, and empirical skills of the candidate in a social science discipline.